Round the World in 40 Days: Stage 6 – Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef

After a seven hour overnight flight from Hong Kong, we were ready for a relaxing day in Brisbane, before driving north through Queensland to Bundaberg and our Great Barrier Reef adventure.

Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef
Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef

Our hire car, a Toyota Camry, was booked through Holiday Autos. I took out annual Car Hire Excess Insurance to cover for all three car hires on this RTW trip; this gave considerable savings over locally arranged cover.

City Hopper Ferry on the Brisbane River
City Hopper Ferry on the Brisbane River

Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia, but is much less visited by tourist than the two largest cities: Sydney and Melbourne. That’s a pity as Brisbane has much to offer. We revisited some of the highlights from a previous visit eight years ago, including the City Botanic Garden.

A big plus compared with my previous visit is the City Hopper service. This is a totally free ferry service running every 30 minutes up and down the Brisbane River, with five stops on the south bank and three on the north bank. This is a great, leisurely way to explore the central area of the city.

John Pool gives a warm welcome at Lychee Divine
John Pool gives a warm welcome at Lychee Divine

We stayed at The Point Brisbane Hotel, just a couple of minutes walk from the Dockside terminal for the City Hopper.  I highly recommend this hotel for the quality of its rooms and breakfast, the friendliness of its staff and its excellent location.

Our 220 mile journey north to Bundaberg on the Bruce Highway passed by the spectacular Glass House Mountains and included a stop at the Lychee Divine Visitor Centre, an outlet selling everything imaginable made from lychees! Our wives said the lychee & ginger ice-cream definitely fitted the description ‘divine’.

Lady Musgrave Experience Catamaran
Lady Musgrave Experience Catamaran

From Bundaberg we took the Lady Musgrave Experience. There are two aspects to this one day Great Barrier Reef trip by catamaran.

Firstly there is a visit to Lady Musgrave coral island, with fascinating flora and bird life including bridled terns. Secondly there is the opportunity to see the coral through a glass-bottomed boat and by snorkelling. A bonus was being able to swim with giant turtles.

Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern

This experience, as indeed it most certainly was, is highly recommended by all four of us, although two of our party found sea-sickness tablets to be very useful along the way. As seniors we paid about £115 each, a 10% discount from the usual price. A couple of meals and snorkelling equipment are included in the price.

We took a leisurely drive back to Brisbane the following day. Our first stop was at Maryborough a sleepy little town with well preserved colonial streets overlooking the Mary River. It is the birthplace of Pamela Lyndon Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins, and this is commemorated around the town with some striking public art.

Mount Tinbeerwah
Glass House Mountains from Mount Tinbeerwah

Our second stop was at  Mount Tinbeerwah Lookout. This short diversion from the main road was in search of koala bears, which signs had indicated were in the area – but no luck in that respect.

However the panoramic views from the Lookout towards the Glass House Mountains and around to the coast were quite spectacular.

Finally we headed back to Brisbane via the Sunshine Coast, passing some of its beautiful beaches along the way, and stopping for a bite to eat in Caloundra.

Sydney's vibrant Circular Quay
Sydney’s vibrant Circular Quay area

Although you can fly directly from Brisbane to Christchurch, New Zealand, our next port of call, we decided to spend time in Sydney along the way. This was partly because one of our party had not visited Sydney before, but also because it is one of my Top Ten Cities of the World and I’m always happy to return there.

The Holiday Inn at Sydney airport proved to be a first-rate place to stay over with easy access to the centre of Sydney. An afternoon and evening  allowed for a relaxing time wandering around the Botanic Gardens, past the Opera House, and around the vibrant Circular Quay area below the imposing structure that is Sydney Harbour Bridge.

So goodbye Australia, and hello New Zealand, and Stage 7 of our Round the World journey!

See also:
Round the World in 40 Days: Planning and Booking
Stage 1 – Golden Triangle of Agra, Jaipur and Delhi
Stage 2 – Singapore and the Gardens by the Bay
Stage 3 – Taipei and NE Taiwan
Stage 4 – Seoul and the DMZ
Stage 5 – Hong Kong Revisited
Stage 7 – Earthquakes and Vineyards in New Zealand
Stage 8 – A Tour of Santiago, Chile
Stage 9 – Cusco and Machu Picchu
Stage 10 – Lima and Miraflores, Peru
Stage 11 – Miami and the Everglades